Category Archives: Fun

Enter the Volcano

Being in Iceland this was the essential trip to make, to go down into the magma chamber of an extinct volcano.

The trip starts with a quick 3km hike across an old lava field to base camp. We hadn’t counted on this being the coldest spring for 30 years though and the lava was still covered in snow.

Eventually you get to base camp and get split into groups of 5/6 to descend into the volcano. Being that we were in the last group we got to scoff the traditional Icelandic lamb soup early :-D. After that out into the elements to do the final climb up to the top of the volcano.

Waiting for us was one of those window cleaner thingies you see on the side of buildings. Slowly it lowered us into the volcano core where we could finally see what we had come for.

Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad

And today we return to narrow gauge trains with Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad. This is a cool little narrow guage in the Oak Meadow Park at Los Gatos. They have a steam engine and two diesel engines. Unfortunately the steam engine does not run in the winter months. Guess that’s an excuse to come back in the summer.


At only 2$ a ticket it’s a bargain for a 15 min ride around the park on the train.

At the end of every run the engine has to be turned around. The have a little turntable just off the end of the platform for this task.



Marin Headlands Hike

I was invited on a hike today by a couple of my friends here in the bay area. It was a 5.5 mile hike in the Golden Gate Recreation Area.

One of the first things was getting closer to the local birds than I have mananged before.

Bird3 Bird2 Bird

We headed out along the Wolf Ridge trail.


After a brief stop for lunch we headed down the hill towards the old WW2 gun batteries. They were pretty impressive and once held some huge guns. The sort that hit things that haven’t come over the horizon yet.




Also coming down the hill there were good view back across to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.


There was quite impressive surf on the sea and a few hardy surfers out enjoying themselves in it.



I had a great day and was a change from spending my time looking at boring “tourist” attractions. Must try and do this again in this area.

Shay Drive System

Thought I would post a couple of pictures of the trains drive system as its a little different to ones I have been on before.

Firstly a set of vertical pistons.


The power from this is taken to all 4 axels which have small wheels to give more power to the track with less slipping. As its going up 9.25 grade I guess this is important.


Roaring Camp Narrow Guage

So in my mission to visit as many steam trains as possible I went to Roaring Camp today to ride on their Bear Mountain train.


It is an ex logging narrow guage. Today way pulled by Engine 1 which was a Shay.


Some nice features of the trip up the mountain were the Indian Creek trestle.


The route used to have a much higher double trestle that was damaged in a fire in 1976. This was replaced with a switchback to relink the tracks. The switchback has a grade of 9.25 which is pretty high for a passenger train.




And to finish off another couple gratuitous shots of the Engine!




So to add to the levels of sport I already details in the last post about MMA just to fill the rest of my free time I have started Kayaking.

Went to Port Edgar near Edinburgh for courses on basic kayaking and sea kayaking. Over two weekends. I have fallen in love with sea kayaking and I plan to try and sit 3* and upwards over the next couple of years. Looks like finding storage for one isn’t going to be too bad either.

Over the winter I need to try and attend some pool sessions and learn some of the basics of handling like self recovery.

End of October going on a away trip to Loch Lomond in sea kayaks. Figure more time on the water is definitely needed.

Might also have a go at some river stuff next year but Im a little more frightened of rivers. Also had offers of some canoeing fun which I shall have to take advantage of.

Martial Arts

So instead of spending 24/7 hacking on arm linux I have decided to improve my health a bit and take up some martial arts. Being in Leith I had the obvious choice of Rick Youngs Blackbelt Academy which has awesome reviews from everyone and is only 10 mins walk away (at a slow walk).

I was originally recommended Rick Youngs by a friend I was talking with about medieval broadsword, he suggested I try Escrimma/Kali. Anyway I went along and watched a Muay Thai and a Kali lesson and loved what I saw so joined the next day.

Muay Thai I have now been doing for 3 months with pretty much every week attending 2-3 lessons (as many as I can). I am loving the kick boxing and my technique has definitely been improving.

Kali/Jeet Kwun Do is Saturday morning so unfortunately I have had trouble making it along regularly as everything else seems to happen on Saturdays as well.

This week I have also started to study BJJ at Rick’s. I had already done a bit of Judo as a kid and been doing some Ju Jitsu on Fridays so it isn’t completely alien. First lesson was two passes of the guard and two sweep to mount/side control from guard. Will definitely be a good addition to my striking from Muay Thai/JKD lessons.

I have been doing Ju Jitsu at another school mainly because I was looking for something to do Friday nights and it was the only lesson that was available. But Ju Jitsu also spends a lot of time working on core strength exercises so its very good as an addition to the other arts I study which are more focussed on technique. Certainly for punching power and grappling I need to improve my core strength.

Medieval sword fighting I have been studying for about a year now. Due to wrist problems I have been specialising in Rapier and will be studying the DiGrassi techniques when I get time to read the documents properly. I have been keeping my hand in at broadsword and done a little sword + dagger stuff. Kali has also been good for my technique. The Kali footwork is very applicable to the rapier and the double stick techniques blend well with sword and knife.

Misc Stuff

So what have I been upto recently as I haven’t posted a non work blog for a while.

I have unexpectedly become an OpenEmbedded board member, wasn’t really expecting that as due to exhaustion I decided I needed to rest and recover instead of attending the GA. Its a pity I missed the GA but I wouldn’t have been much good there anyway. Anyway managed to preside over the first election using the online voting policy and that was a success. Second election for TSC is still in progress.

I have spent a week in Utah doing some work for Elphel, basically some training on OpenEmbedded and the first parts of doing a machine for one of their cameras in OE metadata. Interesting company and I have brought back to Scotland one of their cameras to play with. My brother is already considering the possibilities of using it to film badgers in the wild.

When I read about Utah on wikipedia I was expecting it so be really dull. But it seems Mormons aren’t the only inhabitants. The guys at Elphel took me out a few times and I had fun. Also shopping on the last day I found the rock/goth shop and bought some colours of nail varnish I had wanted but hadnt found in the UK. Also in Barnes and Nobles I found some lego sets I had never seen before, from the lego architecture range.

Last night I was at the Marilyn Manson gig at the O2 academy. It was the first time I had driven over to Glasgow. M8 was fun at rush hour, but I survived that to enter the Glasgow one way system from hell. In which some streets have changed direction since my GPS devices map was done. Anyway found the O2 academy and found the station carpark after a bit of a circle. Must say Strathclyde Transport make it nice and easy and even supply car park attendents to make escaping quick at the end of the gig. The gig itselt was awesome, and even the support band were ace. Was good to see Marilyn and Twiggy back together. All the goth/burlesque/emo stuff was gone and they played all the loud noisy stuff from the past. The stuff that most of the fans love. I did see a few confused looking youngsters who obviously never heard the early albums. There was the normal group of Christians protesting on the corner, but at least this time unlike Braehead they werent being violent and needing to be held back by the police.

Highland Fun

Have arrived in the highlands after my first long distance driving. Has gone ok even with the torrential rain. Didn’t see much of Fort William due to massive storm. Got wine now all is good.

Now for Kirstens Birthday!

Cave Hunting in Roslin

Has been a fun weekend with a bit of excercise thrown in for good measure. A trip out to the Roslin Annual Jamboree with Jen and Kirsten. The Jamboree itself was basically a village fete so we had tea and cakes. Kirsten found herself a mini steam train to ride on.

One of the guys/rangers at the even told us that there was an interesting cave called Wallace’s Cave down the river from where we were and that you could actually get along the path that was marked as closed so we decided to hunt that.

Much climbing of hills, walking along walls bridging deep crevasses and head height nettles we found a variety of cave like places but not the right cave. But we did find a cool little mini waterfall.

We kind of decided that we should do it again, but next time in suitable clothes for getting wet and actually walk the river bed. In prep I also have the Ordinace Survey maps for mobile devices borrowed from a countryside ranger. I guess I better find waterproof PDA housing.